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Monday, March 5, 2012

Tamanna is based on dialogue, not action to tell the story : Steven Moore

Director Steven John Moore. Clicked by: Marco Gualazzini (Italy
It’s been a while since we first published some text piece on Salman Shahid, Feryal Goher and Omair Rana starring upcoming Pakistani film Tamanna.
Directed by Britain born Steven Moore — a graduate of Arts University College at Bournemouth (one of the most reputable film schools in the world)– and produced by Sarah Tareen who is widely known in industry for her affiliations with some of the finest projects of industry; the upcoming ‘Murder Mystry/thriller’ Tamanna  is an Urdu language film unfolding some of the ‘yet unfolded’ aspects of the society.
Having cinematography, photography and photojournalism already in his portfolio, Steven Moore, as mentioned earlier, after formally taking the filmmaking degree is now testing his hands in the field of film direction.
Winning an award call from ‘London Asian Film Festival’, right after the release of the beautiful movie track Koi Dil Mein sung by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and directed, shot and edited by Steve; truly speaks for what capabilities the man carry. Revealing more about him and giving us a more inside view to the film, the optimistic director speaks to Galaxy lollywood and also discusses what Pakistan film industry means to him?
Since Tamanna is your first major work in Pakistan, not many people know about you. So my first question would be who are you? Till what extent you have been attached to this business before Tamanna?
Film is a unique business in many ways, just compare how many films a director will make in his lifetime compared to how many paintings a painter makes or products a manufacturer produces. There are an incredible number of hurdles that a film has to negotiate to get to its audience. No director is known before their first film (unless they are Madonna!) and most of those directors that people have heard of, work for years in obscurity before the public gets to know them.
I have always been an image-maker; started as a photojournalist, worked as a photographer and switched by taking a degree in Filmmaking in 1999. Since then I have mostly worked as a cinematographer on other people’s projects. At the moment, apart fromTamanna, I am making a documentary on Lollywood for ‘Concordia’ [the same production house behind Tamanna as well] and doing some work for an European company on a drone warfare documentary. To blow my own trumpet a little it’s true that there isn’t much published work in my name, however the first independent piece of work that I have released with Concordia, the video for Koi Dil Mein (Directed, Shot and edited by me), was immediately nominated for an award at the London Asian Film Festival alongside AR Rahman and Michael Winner. It really isn’t quantity but quality that counts! One piece of advice I always give to people starting off is don’t hype your work too early, you don’t want people to remember you for the practice work, and film needs a lot of practice.
You have been brought up in a completely different society, a society that is known for its rich TV series and some very classy films of all time. Knowing that you are directing a film in Pakistan, what different a viewer should expect from your side?
That’s nice of you to say so, it’s true of course and the influence of that is there, especially as I was fortunate to grow up with the best period of British TV, it’s not as good as it was, and maybe never will be again. It’s a good question but difficult to answer in short. The best answer would be not foreign money and I hope little foreign influence beyond my personal skills as a director/cinematographer. I think the uniqueness of the situation will hopefully translate into a unique film.
You are making a film in such a time when although our industry is down but some really anticipated films like Waar, The Dusk and others are coming up. You believe your film has that content to compete with such films, despite the fact that your film would cater a completely different market.
It’s only because there is so little output in the industry here that we would be compared at all. We wouldn’t compare ‘Avatar’ and ‘The Iron Lady’, and we shouldn’t compare films with such huge budget differences. Although we do have one explosion and a couple of murders, Tamanna is based on dialogue and not action to tell the story. But yes, we absolutely can compete on the quality of the story, the writing, and the filmmaking technique in general, but not on numbers of nameless faceless people slaughtered for dubious reasons! But seriously, people have different tastes and we are defiantly not trying or able to please the same audience as Waar with this film. That isn’t snobbery, just a question of being realistic, and I hope beyond hope that I can eventually give that audience the ride of their lives at a later time.
Let’s now talk more about the content of the film. We have been hearing this for quite a time now that the film is about class snobbery and all that. Take us a little bit deeper. What this film would mean to a common Pakistani citizen?
What is a ‘common Pakistani citizen? Do Pathans have the same tastes as Punjabis? I know what you mean of course, and it’s another perfectly good question that’s difficult to answer! In making a film like Tamanna we have analysed this, because despite the answer to the last question we do want to be inclusive in the way the film comes across. Often films that are for the common man are different from those that carry analysis of social situation. These are, by necessity, mostly more complex.
Film’s power is in being multi-levelled, the story is not the theme, the theme is the meaning carried by the story. The ‘best’ films reach deeper in their analysis but must still be carried by a good story well told. We hope that we have chosen a story that will engage people’s interest, but filmmakers always take a gamble and are often surprised by their work’s success or failure. The question of target audience is a little difficult when you don’t have focus groups screening films and changing edits based on their findings as they do in Hollywood.
Taking advantage of this interview, allow me to take your views on the film industry that currently you are thoroughly involved in. You believe Pakistan film industry is in dire need of its own identity to come out of this low time? And if yes, then what could possibly be that ‘own identity’ thing. For many producers here a good film means a top-notch bollwoodish flick. But that’s not what our industry can survive on in long run. At times it seems like ‘Parallel cinema’ or social films are what our industry is all about but that again is a mere genre not identity. What’s your take on this? 
This has been the central question for me during the past 5 years or so, and it’s a huge topic that requires careful justification. I have always said we need both, we need Waar, we need Bol and we need Tamanna, because what we really need is a little of everything. It’s different when we talk in terms of the audience and the industry though, what the industry needs is simply investment. Most films do make money; the rich should start to think about this as a fresh field of investment now. The great advantage of Parallel cinema is that it is cheaper, it needs less money, but of course it generates less money. But as you say, in terms of identity, it does something else. Look at Iranian cinema, probably the only thing allowing the rest of the world to see Iranian people as real human beings, and The Separation’s Oscar has proved that this kind of film can reach larger audiences abroad, whereas ‘masala’ films will never do that.
Moving back to Tamanna, it’s been a long time since we first posted about your movie on our site. It must be in its final stages if not completed by now. So what’s the progress that you guys have made so far on the film?
We have delayed a lot, but only in the interest of trying to get it right on a small budget. It is possible to make up for less budget with more time, you certainly can’t do both (have little money and rush it through). An example is the nomination at the London Asian Film Festival for the Koi Dil Mein video. They also invited us to screen the film there, and that gave us a choice: Either rush it so it can be screened or go there, show our documentary on Lollywood, give a talk and meet potential sponsors that can help us raise the bar. Also we have a strategy of bringing out as much music for the film as possible before. Our second song and video Allah Hoo is finished and coming out on TV soon and we are presently working with Shehzad Roy for the third called Brown Sahib (you heard it here first!). Networking and convincing busy artists like Shehzad is a delicate and difficult process especially when, you are relatively unknown as we are at the moment. As any serious contender knows this is the Holy Grail. To break the vicious circle you must work with the best, and the best will understandably, only work with people they know. This is why you mostly only have people from filmmaking families getting the opportunity to make films here at the moment. They use their family contacts, without which they could probably never compete or get the opportunity to learn.
Tell me, despite that ‘lack of film making infrastructure problem’, what other problems you faced or still facing while working on the film on day-to-day basis and that too in a completely different environment?
Well pretty much the same as everyone else you know, load shedding etc. If I have to choose one thing that has damaged us the most in our efforts it would be a tendency for people to act enthusiastic, make big promises then simply not return your call when they change their minds or simply can’t back up the rhetoric. Without naming names I’m not talking about ordinary people I’m talking about people you all know. We’ve had several famous people offer us ‘big’ film projects, got us working on the ideas, then simply vanish in embarrassment, leaving us wondering what we did wrong (nothing actually).
The actors you are working with are some of the most experienced ones we have got, the producer Sarah has been involved in some of the best works of Pakistan film industry and your music team including Rahat and Sahir are both big names here. How is it working with all these people?
These two you mentioned are lovely to work with and super talented. It is such a joy to know Rahat, he is one of my favourite people and one of my favourite moments was watching the recording of Koi Dil Mein. As I said we are presently starting work with Shehzad Roy on Brown Sahib, you have to admit that’s a great title, and we expect this to be a great song and video and one that represents more clearly what our film is about.
So at the end of this whole activity, answer the question that would surely be in many minds. What date you guys have got in mind to release the film? We hope we don’t have to wait much longer now.
You’re not the only ones! We are hoping to get it filmed in April and released towards the end of summer.

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